Book Reviews:  04/21/2010
Bucyrus Drills Bucyrus Drills

By David M. Lang

128 pages; $34.95 (Iconografix)

Whether digging holes for water, oil or rock blasting, the humble drill rig has greatly sped the pace of modern development. For more than 75 years, the Bucyrus brand name has remained a leader in drilling technology.

Bucyrus started building drill rigs in 1933 after buying the manufacturing rights to the Armstrong drill brand. For 10 years, Bucyrus sold these Bucyrus-Armstrong rigs, paying a 5% royalty to Armstrong for each unit. The deal turned out to be a bad one, at least for Bucyrus: It eventually shelled out $551,000 in royalties—though it had paid only $89,000 for the initial manufacturing rights. “A lesson to be learned here is to put a cap on royalty payments,” says author David M. Lang, who goes on to detail other lore in this new book, released in March and aimed at mining and construction equipment enthusiasts.

Lang knows a thing or two about drills. He is director of engineering for South Milwaukee, Wis.-based Bucyrus International Inc., which still manufactures drills for mining and construction. Lang has worked there for more than 40 years. The Lang family also has industry history, having spudded the earth with drill rigs for more than a century.

The book begins with a concise history of the trade—China built the first percussion drill in 600 A.D.—and offers an in-depth description of the principles of drilling. These enthusiast books sometimes lack context for the machinery, but in this area Lang excels. Photos of people and machines aptly illustrate the mud, sweat and gears. Lang also lays out a 75-year progression of the Bucyrus drill line in 200 black-and-white and color photographs.

Reviewed by Tudor Van Hampton